SunTek Chung creates images of identity forged from concepts about culture and technology. Like all of his photographs, SunTek makes a real space for us to examine. He challenges the integrity and meaning of artifacts that are marginalized by their own popularity. In his image The South The South, a drunken motorcyclist minds his business on the stoop of his marsh shack facade, drinking tall boys out of his well-traveled cooler. He’s surrounded by pine bark mulch, the remnants of the oldpine forest. Set in the door of his shack is a strange southern flag. The yin and Yankee colored Saint Andrew’s Cross holds the symbols of heaven, earth, fire, and water, made white like the stars. The background of the Korean flag, the color of cleanliness and light, has been changed to red, the yang spilled all over the flag.The purity of the cause is questioned and the white flag as a symbol of truce or peace has been subverted. There’s a skewed parallel between South Korea and the Confederacy that the drunk is not required to explain. But, there’s a spirit of rebellion and autonomy in freedom from both government control and communism. The stereotype of the Asian imitation of American things is subverted. The Korean and American products are interchangeable and impure.
Displaying the Confederate flag is an inflammatory issue, especially in the South, where it remains common. Because it represents both oppression and rebellion, it’s rightly capable of offense. Remaking that flag gives us a fresh vision of a cultural artifact, challenging information extrapolated from stereotypes and simplistic understandings. Ignorance and biases become apparent and silly, but remain a real part of identity.
SunTek now resides in Richmond, VA, where he obtained his BFA in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. He went on to study at Yale University for his MFA and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His work has been featured on the cover of Beautiful/Decay, displayed in a solo show at P.S. 1 in New York, and exhibited across the U.S. and internationally.